Pine nut sauce for soft-boiled eggs

Sauce for Soft Boiled Eggs: pepper, lovage, soaked pine nuts, pour on honey, vinegar, flavor with liquamen.  

Well, okay.  This was the thing I thought was going to turn out to be a, “huh.  ….so that happened” dish.

Grainger’s version of this sauce is to soak pine nuts in water or wine over night, then grind it up with all the other stuff, and it’ll come out like a mayonnaise.

A note on the pine nuts:  I busted a chunk from my budget on getting proper Mediterranian pine nuts.  The pine nuts from China can cause a reaction in people that makes everything they eat taste putrid, and I did not want that.  So the internet to the rescue, and I ordered pine nuts that cost lots of money.  But nothing tasted putrid!  So yay!

I already had red wine, so I soaked the pine nuts in that, and really, white wine would have at least made the color less….puce-like.  Then we put the pine nuts through a food processor, which left them a little gritty.  But it was what it was, and Isabelle put in the honey, vinegar, lovage, pepper, and liquamen (honestly, I have no idea of the amounts.  I started with 2 pounds of pine nuts and we went from there?), and then all of us in the kitchen stood around and tasted it and went “…it needs a thing!” and we couldn’t figure it out, so I took it home, froze it, and left it to think about what it did.

The day of the feast, we tried to use an immersion blender on it (well, Ailis did.  Morwenna told me I wasn’t allowed to use it.  My track record with borrowed toys is not good) and that didn’t smooth it out too much, but I tossed in a splash of dessert wine and called it good.

(And my egg-boiling abilities are kind of sad, so the eggs were more hard than soft boiled, but whatever.  We glooped a bit of sauce on each egg half and sent ’em out)

People seemed to actually like it!

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Forcemeat balls

As promised, I am posting recipes and thought processes behind some of the dishes.  The meatballs have been well requested, so we will start with those.

The original (translation by Grainger and Grocock):

Forcemeat balls: you pound chopped meat with fresh white breadcrumbs soaked in wine, with pepper and liquamen, if you wish, you pound crushed myrtle berries with them.  you shape the balls with pine nuts, wrap them in caul fat, and roast them.

I went off of Grainger’s version in Cooking Apicius. We started with 24 pounds of ground beef (yes, in an ideal world, I would have ground my own meat).  I threw in a container of breadcrumbs, maybe a cup or two of red wine, a quarter cup or liquamen, some pepper,  a quarter cup (maybe less) of crushed juniper berries, and then, because they were feeling dry, a few healthy glugs of olive oil.  We (I say “we” and I really mean “Sephareh”) rolled them into ball, put them in roasting pans and baked them at 375 (I think?) for about 20 minutes.  The 24 pounds made somewhere around 225 balls.

I did not go with the caul fat because I couldn’t find any that wasn’t porky and the porky caul fat I could find was expensive.  If I HAD the caul fat, I think we would have not used any olive oil.  I also didn’t use the pine nuts because the pine nut bill was already adding up with the pine nut sauce for the eggs.

I would like to try these some day with the caul fat, and also I think I would toss in more juniper berries.  But they seemed to go over rather well.

THANK YOU

Like the Super Bowl, no feast happens on the work of one person. Not ever. Yes, I planned the menu, and called the shots, but this was not all me. There’s a lot of people to thank.
First, I have to thank Mistress Catryn and Countess Svava for letting me cook my Roman feast, even though the event was the Queen’s Meadhall and it may have been more appropriate for a Norse feast, I really wanted to do the ROman feast I’ve been prepping for for years.

Second, my Laurels, Master Aleksandr Ruslanovich Kievchanin and Mistress Morwenna Westerne, who let me take over their kitchen for a day, store a lot of meat in their freezer, help me with some of the shopping (BJs for the win!), reminding me of things I forgot, and generally be a sounding board for, “Hey, how does THIS crazy idea sound?” (“No, don’t do that. Don’t…don’t do that.”) (Also the honey buns were Morwenna’s idea when the original desert item for that course didn’t work out. AND THEY WERE SO GOOD).

My precooking crew of Lady Sephereh Dryden, Baroness Ailís inghean Mhuirghein, The Honorable Lady Isabelle de Montreuil sur Me, Lord Donovan Shinnock, and Lord Hugh Tauerner. They stashed food, made sauces, rolled meatballs, pitted dates, restuffed dates, cut up meat, did dishes, and stood around the sauce for the eggs contemplatively trying to see what it was missing (raisin wine).

And then I got hit by a car, and the response of “what can I do to help?” was utterly overwhelming. In the kitchen, I had Mistress Morwenna, Lady Sepherah, Baroness Ailis, Baroness Leonete di Angeli, Lady Lady Kunegunda, Lady Margaret Northwode (who came in all the way from Meridies because I said “Hey, you should come to my feast, it’ll be AWESOME”), Lord Ulfr Steinsson (who proclaimed himself my expiediter and made the plating go smoothly), Lord (Saint) Robert of the Bacon (who magically appeared and got shit done), and Nonny of Carolingia, who even though we needed a stool for her to stand on so she could reach the counters, did an excellent job helping with everything she could while singing.

Baroness Leonete also helped with organizing the servers, not all of whom I caught names for. I know at least one server was here at her first event. Clean up headed by Mistress Catryn and Baron Valerian, and Baron Fergus and Mistress Eleanor took ALLLLLL of the dishes home to wash them, and there were a lot.

I’ll be posting recipes or at least a process for the dishes as the week goes on here, but thank you, everyone. I hope it was tasty.

 

Because I don’t have enough challenges…

When i annouced I was running this feast, I pormised that i would not end up in the ER the night before the event, like I did with the last one (Look, that mandolin had it out for me.  I SWEAR).  And I promised I would not be in the kitchen strung out on codiene.

These things are still true.

However, I apparently did not make ENOUGH promises, because I was involved in a hit and run last weekend, and while I’m not seriously injured (by a major miracle), it really has put the damper in the last minute preparations.  But a situation like this also demonstrates how neccesary a good crew is, and how invaluable they are, and what good friends look like when they step up to cover for your broken ass.

I also will not be strung out on codiene.  Valium, however?  Maybe.

Yeah.

My Laurels have informed me that this is the last feast, because the injuries are escalating and the next one is bound to kill me.  So…. thank god I got to do my Roman feast before the moratorium fell.

So part of the art of the feast?  Making sure you have good people who have your back.

Aliter betas elixas

I did this for A&S champions in 2008.  For the feast, I am going to get beet greens or swiss chard, because seriously, the beet root is wrong.  I’m sure of it.  It’s honestly been keeping me up at night.  The recipe before this is clearly for beet greens, it talks about wrapping the leaf around stuff.

Aliter betas elixas: Ex sinapi oleo modico et aceto bene inferuntur.

Another recipe for boiled beets: they are served nicely in a sauce of mustard, a little oil, and vinegar. (Grocock and Grainger, 2006)

Swiss chard leaves OR beet leaves OR beet roots.
¼ cup of organic Dijon mustard
1 spash of oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

I treated the two greens like spinach- just a very quick dip in the boiling water. I didn’t want them to get too limp or overcooked. The beet was boiled for about half an hour (according to the Joy of Cooking, beets should be boiled for 20-30 minutes).

The sauce was a largeish glop of mustard, a small splash of oil and a larger splash of vinegar, slowly brought to a simmer. This mustard is organic Dijon. The ingredients match up to Apicius’ instruction for making mustard, with the exception of an addition of cloves. I chose not to go with yellow mustard because all the organic yellow mustards contained turmeric.
The question of what, really, does betas mean is a complicted one. Giacosa translates it as beet roots, but the mordern red beet is a 16th century development. The Brothwells and Andrew Dalby both think that what is now called Swiss Chard is what the Romans called beta. The beet was developed from Swiss chard, and both have the same scientific name.

There is a reference in Catullus 67 that refers to a man’s genitals as beta, which does imply the root, but Apicius often lists betas among the greens in his recipes. I was not able to find any Swiss Chard root, so the root portion of this experiment is a modern beet root.

Results:
The mustard could use a little more vinegar. I think the taste of the swiss chard works best with the flavor of the mustard sauce. The beet greens don’t have much taste, and the beet root doesn’t really mesh well with the mustard. I would go with the swiss chard in the future.

References:

Brothwell, Dan and Patricia Brothwell. Food in Antiquity ISBN 0801857406

Giacosa Ilaria Gozzini. A Taste of Ancient Rome ISBN: 0226290328

Grocock, Christopher and Sally Grainger Apicius: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and English Translation IBSN: 1903018137

Dulcia Domestica

Dulcia domestica: Palmulas vel dactilos excepto semine, nuce vel nucleeis vel pipere trito infercies. Sale foris contingis, frigis in melle cocto et inferes.

A homemade sweet: Remove the pits from palmyra fruits or dates, and stuff them with walnuts or pine nuts or ground pepper. Roll them in salt, fry in cooked honey, and serve. (Giacosa)

Pudding for the home: Take one kind of a date or another and remove the stone. Stuff in a nut or pine nuts or ground pepper, salt on the outside, bake in boiled honey and serve. (Faas)

Translation notes: Nuce means unspecified nut. Frigis is from the dictionary form frigo which means “to roast, parch or fry.”

My redaction: Take dates, remove the pits, and insert nuts. Roll in salt. Heat up honey in a frying pan, fry the dates, and serve.

For this recipe, I choose to use almonds for the nut, because I like blanching almonds. The Roman certainly had almonds, and used them.

Faas, in his redaction, omits the salt, and instead of frying the dates in honey, instead reduces the honey and pours it over the dates. He does recommend almonds for the stuffing.

Giacosa recommends walnuts or hazelnuts for nuce and also omits the salt.

References:

Brothwell, Don and Patricia Brothwell. Food in Antiquity. 1997

Faas,Patrick. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome (Translator: Shaun Whiteside). 1994

Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini. A Taste of Ancient Rome (Translator: Anna Herklotz). 1992

Boletos Aliter

I am posting some previous redactions I did for a few of the dishes.

Another Recipe for Mushrooms

Boletos aliter: tirsos eorum concisos in patellam novam perfundis, addito pipere, ligustico, modico melle. liquamine temperabis. oleum modice.

Another Recipe for mushrooms: Put the chopped stems in a clean pan, add pepper, lovage, and a bit of honey, mix with garum, add a bit of oil.

1 ½ pounds of mushrooms
¼ cup of chopped celery tops
1 teaspoon pepper
1 healthy squirt of honey
1 tablespoon garum
1 healthy splash of oil

Chop the mushrooms and celery tops, mix in a frying pan with the pepper, honey, garum and oil. Fry until the mushrooms are cooked through.

Notes:
Mushroom types: Brothwell and Brothwell in Food in Antiquity suggest porcini mushrooms. Porcini mushrooms are not easy to find when you’re on a budget. I used regular white rounds.

Also, the recipe calls for mushroom stems, but the amount of mushrooms that would be required to provide enough stems for a good sized dish is substantial. I used the caps as well, but carefully removed the gills.

Lovage: Lovage is difficult to find. Old Marian suggests that the easiest way to get lovage is to order seeds and grow it yourself. The Brothwells, Giacosa and Faas all suggest using celery tops as a substitute. A discussion on the SCA-Cooks list concurs with this opinion.

Sources:
Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini. A Taste of Ancient Rome. 1992 ISBN: 022629030-1
Brothwell, Dan and Patricia. Food in Antiquity. 1998. ISBN: 080185740-6
Faas, Patrick, Around the Roman Table. 2005. ISBN: 022623347-2